Tag Archives: lukaku

Round and Round

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Firstly, a public service announcement. Elsewhere in today’s mag some of my fellow contributors have been tasked with recalling the glorious culmination of the treble season; (clearly a ploy by the Editor to end the season on a positive note.) This column flatly refuses to join in as I maintain the utter shitshow witnessed over the last 9 months needs putting to bed. So if you’re here for nostalgia and a reminder of a time when players cared about performances and results, feel free to turn the page and move on. If mean-spirited invective and doom-laden pointlessness is your thing, then do continue reading. Thank you.

A few years ago when Liverpool were splashing around in the same puddle of mediocrity United find themselves now, it became a thing to laugh at their regular claims at having ‘turned a corner’. 3 games unbeaten: ‘turned a corner’; win at Old Trafford: ‘turned a corner’; sign Alberto Aquilani… ‘turned a corner’. That’s now United, except rather than turning corners, instead we’ve perfected the art of going round in circles. There’s no deviation from the set path we’re on, just an 18 month cycle of sacking managers and making the same clueless decisions over and over again.

This season ends much the same the last as the last one did. We have one of the most highly remunerated squads in world football but it’s riddled with players who routinely underperform. Mourinho dragged this sorry bunch to a 2nd place finish last year and called it one of his greatest ever achievements in management. People laughed. The club hierarchy decided not to back him in the transfer market so he lost the plot and did what Mourinho does when he doesn’t get his own way. He fell out with everybody and got himself sacked. Quite honestly, I don’t blame him one bit at this point.

2 years ago in the aftermath of the Europa League final, Mourinho gave an interview about his tactical preparations for the final and one comment was particularly telling. “I even joked with Smalling – ‘With your feet, we’re for sure not playing out from the back!” So here we had a manager fully aware of his players’ limitations, adapting accordingly and succeeding for the best part. That summer we bought Victor Lindelof, who despite showing some much-improved form in recent months struggled badly during his first season. Fair enough, that was to be expected.

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Clearly United needed further reinforcement in central defence, but it wasn’t forthcoming as Woodward allegedly knew better than the manager. We’d signed Bailly (constantly injured) and Lindelof (still acclimatising to English football) but another new face was refused. Smalling signed a new contract in December and then Woodward sacked Mourinho a week later. So who decided to offer Smalling the new contract? Did Mourinho sanction this because he was refused a new defender or is Woodward making calls on player retention ahead of the management team?

Martial is another one who Mourinho had sussed out months ago. Undoubtedly talented, but more often than not he doesn’t appear in the slightest bit interested. Mourinho called him out last summer but wasn’t backed, before Martial’s form briefly re-appeared in the autumn and an uneasy truce was reached. Mourinho gets sacked at Christmas, Martial signs a 5 year contract in January then quelle surprise, his form drops off a cliff again. So once again, who decided to offer Martial the new contract? Was this a Mourinho or an Ed Woodward decision?

There’s a similarly sorry tale associated with almost every player in the squad now. Take Pogba as another prime example, moonwalking round the gaff and lording it up like he’s the fucking Fonz or something. All whilst he’s making eyes towards Spain in the hope of earning another bumper payday for his shitstain of an agent. Once again, Mourinho knew exactly what he was dealing with here but was never going to succeed in a battle of wills with the club’s greatest commercial asset. Pogba might have 35 million Instagram followers in thrall to his antics but I personally don’t know anyone who isn’t desperate to see the back of him.

If Pogba seems a tad misguided as regards his current standing amongst supporters, his mate Lukaku is absolutely clueless. This clown actually appears to be of the opinion that he’s somehow in demand and has more attractive options on the table for next season. Mate, if you can find ANYONE else prepared tolerate your first touch who’ll pay you £250K per week then cheerio and good luck. Just imagine him rocking up at Juventus to assist the Ronaldo show. 3 misplaced passes in the first 15 minutes of his debut and he’d be ushered out of the country and never heard of again.

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The level of delusion radiating from a number of our players is quite incredible. It’s clearly catching as well, as noises persist that Marcus Rashford thinks he’s in with a shout of moving to Barcelona. Which Barcelona is this then? Is there one in an alternate universe that welcomes 10 goal a season strikers with a routinely piss-poor conversion rate? Yep, it all sounds dead plausible this. Presumably he’ll be taking his imbecilic, best mate Lingard with him too and we’ll be getting Suarez and Messi in part-exchange.

The epic climax to the 1998/99 season truly signalled the end of an era at Manchester United. At that point, the process of the club becoming more concerned with financial rather than on-pitch success was well underway, but the people driving the commercial interests of the club were still outnumbered by stakeholders interested in football. Fast forward 20 years and where are we now? Owned by Florida-based carpetbaggers, loaded with debt and being dictated to by wankers like Raiola and Pogba. How the mighty have fallen.

It really doesn’t matter who the so-called manager is when the bloke actually calling the shots is a star-struck, ex-investment banker with no track record in football whatsoever beyond signing strategic alliances with pillow case manufacturers. The question of Woodward’s competency shouldn’t even be up for debate. Under his stewardship, the club have re-written the book on the consequences of poor succession planning and set the benchmark in how to dismantle a successful football team following two decades of sustained dominance.

What a mess. I’ll see you in August for much more of the same.

Copyright Red News – May 2019

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Reasons To Be Cheerful, Part 3

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Well December went well, didn’t it? It all started so well with that memorable win at the Emirates, but sneaking out of there with 3 points unfortunately meant that we’d used up an entire month’s worth of luck in the space of 2 hours. By the time Boxing Day arrived it felt like Van Gaal had returned like the Ghost of Christmas Past. The players appeared to sense this too and joined in by attempting a macabre re-enactment of the infamous Norwich home game that ruined Christmas 2015.

Factor in a 0-0 draw against Southampton a few days later and it momentarily felt like we’d regressed 2 years. We haven’t, thankfully… I genuinely believe that. It was just a hefty kick in the bollocks that needs to be kept in perspective. Since I wrote here a month ago we’ve played a dozen games and suffered a major dip in form. Injuries, fatigue, a post-derby hangover… blame whatever you want. Yet we’re 2nd in the league and comfortably reached the CL knock-out stages – so we’re not doing all that badly.

Let’s be realistic here: over half of United’s squad still comprises of haphazardly recruited, distinctly underwhelming footballers – good players, but not great players. Most will be replaced as soon as their contracts are up. Forget the net spend figures and Jose/Pep comparisons being bandied about as they’re irrelevant for the most part. Looking at the talent we have in place, I maintain that we’re overachieving with what we’ve actually got.

Unfortunately, the gargantuan ball ache that nobody anticipated this season was Manchester City’s ridiculous form. The fact they’ve amassed an unprecedented points total at this stage skews the picture to the point that any progress made by United has been obscured. 2 years ago we’d have been 3 points clear at the top of the table with 47 points after 22 games. Instead, we’re sat 15 points off the pace so understandably, the mood about the place is poised somewhere between subdued and clinically depressed.

So, what to do? According to your average, internet-based moron, being 15 points behind City and with everyone feeling a bit sorry for themselves, it’s time to sack the manager. Quite how anyone could reach that conclusion is baffling, but such a mindset does exist out there. Can you imagine the alternative to Mourinho at this juncture? I can. United hovering just above mid-table with Giggs and Phil Neville in charge whilst Paul Scholes sits in the ITV studio claiming we’re ‘doing pretty well’ all things considered. Meanwhile, the entire footballing world pisses themselves laughing at our expense. No thanks, I’ll stick with Jose if you don’t mind.

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That doesn’t mean to say I don’t think Mourinho has to change if he is to succeed in the long-term at Old Trafford. I think we were all guilty of underestimating the extent to which Guardiola would impact on City’s fortunes this season, but does Mourinho have to ability to drag this current United squad up to their current level? Either by instilling some radical shift in mindset and tactics, or by making some unforeseen changes in personnel.

To put this another way, Ferguson re-invented his United teams numerous times due to the shifting demands of what he deemed necessary to succeed. He famously gambled on youth in 1995, built a team of warriors to out-battle Arsenal, then set about constructing a side that proved even more consistent than Mourinho’s powerful 2005 Chelsea vintage. Basically, we might need a re-think if we’re going to get anywhere near City over the next couple of years – it’s not enough just to keep our fingers crossed hoping they won’t quite hit the same heights next season.

Take Lukaku as an example here – signed at huge expense to lead our attack for the next 5-6 years. Although his goals contribution has been respectable, I don’t think I’m being that unkind in suggesting he’s not the most fluid, all-round footballer to have graced the No.9 shirt at OT. Even as a flat-track bully, he doesn’t do that much bullying and he manages to miss as many sitters as both Rashford and Martial combined. I’ve no desire to kick Romelu whilst he’s down here at all, he’s clearly trying his hardest. I’m merely suggesting that Jose might benefit from re-visiting his plan of having him as our attacking figurehead for the next 5 years.

If you don’t agree with this harsh assessment of Lukaku’s form, then take some solace from the fact that regular whipping boy Jesse Lingard has improved immeasurably since being singled out for a slagging off here a couple of months back. Whilst Lukaku and the returning Zlatan have looked well off the pace, Lingard has carried the team over the last couple of months and proven himself United’s most potent attacking threat by miles. Fair play to him. I will happily admit to being wrong and I genuinely hope he maintains this new level of consistency he’s reached. I still think he’s a bit of a dickhead, and acknowledge the fact he’s quite entitled to hold the same opinion of me.

Despite the team’s solid progress overall, we’re left facing the grim prospect of watching City steamroller towards the title for the next few months. As unpalatable as this may be, we’re just going to have to suck it up as every minor setback befalling United is inevitably blown out of all proportion. We’ve still got much to play for despite the league summit being out of reach; still in the FA Cup and worse teams than ours have won the Champions League in the not too distant past. I appreciate I’m clutching at straws here, but how sweet would that be? Shades of ’68 as City win the title whilst United usurp them by claiming the big one. Lingard screamer to win it in the last minute, anyone?

Copyright Red News – January 2018

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The Beat(en) Generation

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock or are marooned up in Tier 3 somewhere, you’re probably well aware of the singing section’s recent attempt to award Romelu Lukaku his own personalised terrace ditty. Nothing too controversial with that decision, you might assume. Unfortunately, the boundaries of good taste have been well and truly obliterated as the song in question not only acknowledges Romelu’s goal scoring abilities, it also alleges in uproariously graphic detail that his penis size is equally impressive.

A bit weird? Undoubtedly. Was I surprised to hear it? Not in the slightest.

So this month’s burning question then: are the United fans singing this a massive bunch of racists or merely just a bit of an embarrassment? Since we’re living in the era where anything brainless is excused as banter, it’s very unlikely that anyone revelling in the size of another bloke’s cock is not doing it entirely seriously. Consequently, I’m not sure I agree with Marina Hyde’s assertion that all racial stereotyping is racist, but I’d certainly concur that the song is entirely classless and doesn’t reflect well on anyone joining in or United fans in general.

Given that Lukaku has weighed in himself now asking fans to ‘move on’, it’s more than likely the song will die a slow death rather than hanging around forever like the similarly unreconstructed ‘you eat dogs in your own country’ Ji-Sung Park effort. I hope so. Once upon a time attempts to generate an atmosphere at OT didn’t involve marching to the ground from the Tollgate pub whilst singing a song in praise of your leading goalscorer’s penis. I might be a traditionalist lacking a sense of humour, but it just strikes me as a bit fucking zany and needs to be knocked on the head.

It’s not the first time the J-Stand happy clappers have prompted collective groans from many observers and I doubt it’ll be the last. Perhaps I should be full of admiration for people still trying to create an atmosphere in the ground when that ship sailed 20 years ago; but they lost me at the point they called for a new singing section independent of the existing singing section in Tier 2 of the Stretford End. That’s before you get to the fact placing this in J-Stand meant uprooting hundreds of long-standing ST holders in that area. I’m sorry, but any credibility these people ever had evaporated at that point.

Unsurprisingly, 2 years on from their move to J-Stand, the entire venture has been every bit the resounding flop most of us in the ground anticipated. The atmosphere or noise level on an average match day hasn’t improved at all (not helped by the football on view in recent years, admittedly), so the only discernible change is that supporters in the section are given carte blanche to stand for the duration of the game… that and it’s created a safe space for those involved to compare bobble hats and show off their brand new ‘vintage’ Adidas trackie tops.

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So let’s re-cap here. A singing section is started in Stretford Tier 2 and it doesn’t work. Singing section is then moved to J-Stand, and again it doesn’t work. Unperturbed by this, it appears the organisers haven’t given up. An email has recently been circulated to their members outlining details of the latest meeting the group’s leaders have had with Dan Schofield, the Head of Venue Operations at OT. As well as blaming ‘day trippers’ for the general lack of atmosphere in there week-to-week, they are also lobbying United to free up a block of unreserved seats in J-Stand so the singiest of their singers can all sit/stand together. Yes, you did read that correctly. Their latest brainwave is to create a further singing section within the singing section that was put in place 2 years ago.

I’m sorry lads, but do you honestly believe that this latest round of proposals is going to work? You’ve already usurped 1,600 people who sat in those seats for years and now you’ve decided half of those who replaced them aren’t worthy of a spot in your section either. It’s utterly mental to assume that inconveniencing another several hundred ST holders you class as ‘day trippers’ is going to achieve anything whatsoever other than pissing a load more people off.

Here’s a novel idea, if you’re that motivated and convinced that your time and energies invested in this can make a genuine difference, how about just singing your hearts out at the match and not attempting to dictate who sits where and who’s worthy of a place alongside you? Without wishing to sound patronising, if I sound defeatist it’s because the battle you’re currently engaged in was fought and lost by a generation of United fans who felt just as passionate about this once upon a time as you feel now.

The average age of those people is probably 45-50 these days, and those of us who haven’t been priced out or simply got bored of the gentrification of the place are still going to the match now. We’ve spent most of our football watching lives being told to shut up and sit down by the club and the authorities; so after 20+ years of seeing the match day experience in steady decline the sense of ennui and déjà vu about proceedings becomes palpable.

I don’t know what the answer is here, but I’ll wish you all the best with your endeavours and trust you’ll count your blessings that at least the club are prepared to listen/pay lip service to your present manifesto. In the meantime, I’ll continue to die a little inside each time you launch into another impassioned rendition of ‘whoa whoa whoa whoa, hey hey hey hey’ and trust you’ll try to refrain from singing about Lukaku’s dick given it makes us all look like… well, dicks. Good luck.

Copyright Red News – September 2017

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